From my speech at Politicon on June 25, 2016 in Pasadena, CA. This post originally appeared on Medium.
If you were to write a letter that would be given to your grandchildren 30 or 40 years in the future, what would your message be? Looking at the world today, maybe you’d write a letter of apology: “I’m sorry we screwed up the environment and melted the ice caps.”
Maybe you’d write a letter of warning: “Hey, watch out for Islam,” or “Stay away from gluten, sugar, meat, fluoride and sitting. (Oh, and Matthew McConaughey movies.)”
If your grandparents had written you a letter before you were born, what would they have told you?
• “Watch out for Communism.”
• “Stay away from drugs and rock ‘n roll.”
• “Make love, not war.”
• “If anyone offers you the chance to wear bell-bottom jeans, the answer is no!”
I would have loved for my grandparents to write me a letter. Even though the issues of their day included the Cold War, hippies, drugs and Communism, that would have been an empty letter because that’s not who they were. I think they would have told me about the life lessons they had learned — the things they found true, what they lived by, what got them through.
Life is all about principles. We all change, but life is about principles. That’s what I wished they had told me.
Let’s take the Woodstock generation. Their message was: “Don’t trust anybody over the age of 30.” Why? Because those people had sold their souls for power and money — for a suit or a job — and they didn’t want to become that.
Now, our nation is being ruled by members of that Woodstock generation. Have they held true to their principles? If they had written a letter to themselves back then, would they be ashamed of who they have become? Have they created the authentic world they advocated — with love, no greed, no war?
A group of people listen to music at Woodstock Music and Arts Fair in August 1969. (Three Lions/Getty Images)
That Woodstock generation is now about 70 years old — Clinton, Trump, Sanders. Would they have pointed to their future selves and said, “Yeah I can trust that guy.” I don’t think so. I think they’d be doing sit-ins and marches every day. What legacy did they leave us?
Pew Research released a study last week, which found 70% of Democrats feel fear when they think about Republicans. A decade ago, only about 20% of voters felt the other party was a danger to the country. Today, it’s 60% overall.
What happened to us?
Certainly the Woodstock generation wouldn’t have wanted this much anger and distrust among their grandchildren. It’s an interesting space to be in — one I have been in for years.
Revelers attend 40th Anniversary of Woodstock Music Festival on August 14, 2009 in Bethel, New York. (Mario Tama/Getty Images)
For instance, how many people believe I am opposed to gay marriage being legal in this country? How many would be surprised to know I consider Anderson Cooper to be an honest journalist and happily count him among my friends?
This dilemma is now affecting all of us. Do you feel comfortable giving yourself the label of Democrat or Republican? How many people consider themselves Independent?
Do the issues of our day — the ones you hear in the media — do they define your focus? Do they define you?
• Income inequality
• Transgender bathrooms
• Cyber bullying
• Islamic terror
• Gun crime
Do these issues play a role in your legacy? Are any of these who you are? Or are they like the message, “Watch out for Communists,” from my grandparents? Perhaps they play a role in your life — and they may indeed be very important to you — but do they define you?
Think ahead to the next 10, 20, 30 years — what do you see? Do you believe there will be a World War? A global financial collapse or depression? How about the cure for cancer? How about the Cubs winning the World Series? (Hope springs eternal...)
A money exchange office worker poses with handfuls of Sterling notes and Euro notes on June 7, 2016 in Ireland. (PAUL FAITH/AFP/Getty Images)
Nobody knows if or when any of this is going to happen — and we could debate it all day long — but have you noticed the more important something is, the less we debate it?
A depression, a currency collapse, would affect all of us. Is anybody talking about it?
Do you believe you will never die?
There are people right now who are saying that by 2030, they will have conquered death — nobody will ever need to die again. Think about that one a little. What happens to Social Security then?
According to futurists like Ray Kurzweil, many of the people reading this may never die. Every generation prior to Gen Y has faced death as the inevitable conclusion to life, but Millennials may be the first to experience the ability to live, well, forever.
So we need to have some discussions.
Would you even want to live forever if you could? Your consciousness, or your unique pattern, could be saved to a computer. Is that life? And, if it is, is there any value to the human body? Is any life worth fighting for if it can just always be patterned and stored on a thumb drive?
We could become the first species on earth for whom death becomes optional, and life is separate from the body.
Think about what that might mean for us as a culture, what it would mean for politics. Would war cease to exist? Hate? Racism? Fear? Or would they just get worse?
Will technology take us to utopia or the nightmare of science fiction? Will we let it? Should we let it?
What does it mean to be human? What motivates us — love, fear, hatred, revenge, greed, hunger, sex? What if I told you technology could take away many of those appetites.
Shouldn’t we be having these discussions?
Attendees walk by image of Microsoft HoloLens augmented reality viewer during the 2016 Microsoft Build Developer Conference on March 30, 2016 in San Francisco, California. (Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)
Zuckerberg says that by 2050 sex will be virtual and procreation done in labs. We could be living in the Matrix. Is that life? Is that just living? Is that even reality or just illusion?
How can we connect with each other, especially when the media and politics is built entirely around driving us apart, and technology encourages us to text, even when we’re next to each other?
Listening to the news these days, regardless of the source, it’s becoming an exercise in degrees of hatred, judgment, fear and blame. This is the language and approach of the last generation and the ones previous to that. Meanwhile, politics is merely varying degrees of lying from both sides, and we just end up arguing over misdirection.
The next two generations to come of age will bear a great burden — one that is not a choice of their own making. It is a burden that, I am sad to say, was left by my generation and many of the generations that came before. But we have the opportunity to enter a new Golden age for humanity — especially in America.
Technology is rapidly advancing and has the power to fundamentally transform our civilization. How will we use it? The internet of everything will bring about the democratization of everything. And that means the destruction of the old institutions — from a place where the game is rigged to favor the elite to a place where any one person can literally change the world.
People use Samsung Gear VR during the presentation of the new Samsung Galaxy S7 and Samsung Galaxy S7 edge on February 21, 2016 in Barcelona, Spain. (David Ramos/Getty Images)
Up until now the ability to survive, achieve status and pass on your DNA has been based on your ability to accumulate power. Who has the most wealth, land, oil, water?
The future is being shaped by those under thirty. They look at the concept of staying at a job for 40 years and getting a gold watch upon retirement as an embarrassment, not a badge of honor. They believe they can be the next Zuckerberg or Dorsey or Musk.
Now is the time of the straight line. Friction is being diminished. The path of less resistance is how real freedom, real power can be found. Soon, nothing will be as it was and everything will be as it has never been.
The last two generations tried to homogenize everything — gentrification. A Starbucks on every corner, GAP, Anne Taylor, CVS. U.S. retail (the big box stores like Macy’s) lost $400 million just in their clothing lines during Q1 this year.
The day of the mall is over. But so is the day of the automobile.
We think of GM as a car maker. But they aren’t, they are a bank. The money-making part of GM is GMAC. Forget about making a better car, the next generation doesn’t even want to own a car. You can share cars. So what happens to profits when people want to share cars? Even with Uber, someone needs to own a vehicle.
By 2030, human-driven cars will be a thing of the past, and it will be shared ownership of cars. We’ll be in a shared ownership community. The malls will be gone, taxis will be gone, Ubers will be gone, and cars will be made by robots.
A self-driving Mercedes Benz F 015 stands at the Dam Square in Amsterdam on March 13, 2016. (BART MAAT/AFP/Getty Images)
By 2050, over 50% of current jobs won’t exist. Our world will be so vastly different. How do we get there without fascism, revolutions or an American Spring? We will get there by rediscovering:
• Listening to each other
• Protecting each other
• Empowering the individual — not the government or corporations
• Working together
• Live and let live
• Classic liberalism
Ah, but that is where we fall apart. I could say half of those things to Democrats and they would cheer. I could say the other half of them to Republicans and they would cheer. But the sovereignty of the individual is only possible with personal responsibility and mutual respect.
Sharing and cooperation only works if it is voluntary. By definition, cooperation cannot be coerced. It doesn’t come from laws or from the point of a gun.
Cooperation by force is called slavery.
The next generation is bringing authenticity back into vogue. Finding their own true selves and getting to live in peace while letting others live their authentic selves. This is the revolution the Woodstock generation said they believed in but never delivered. The younger generation and the ones that follow won’t be defined by structures and words. Technology enables this. It can change world from top-down to bottom-up.
The “old guard” is panicked about this.
Guards pose in ceremonial attire at Wellington Barracks, March 21, 2012 in London, England. (Dan Kitwood/Getty Images)
Change is hard. Just think about self-driving cars and trucks. With fractional ownership, car sales plummet, insurance plummets, auto repair disappears. While unions are fighting for what they believe are their rights, they are missing the real issues and the opportunities coming down the pipe.
People are talking about minimum wage, but McDonalds says the only way to survive is by replacing workers with robots. So, how does the government respond? In the EU, they are now asking robots to pay social security taxes. That is how the establishment fights the progress they fear.
Look at who they’ve rolled out, both right and left, for this presidential election. They will use anything they can to hold onto their power:
• Build walls!
• Get the guns!
• Free college for everybody!
• Ban Muslims!
• Spy on people!
• More spending, more debt, more war, because everything is a threat!
How sad. What a joke they have become. A civil rights sit-in with people like John Lewis. He fought for the rights of others, but now leads a movement to limit the rights of citizens, repressing the 1st, 2nd, 4th, 5th, 6th and 7th Amendments.
Rep. John Lewis (D-GA), (3rd L), James Clyburn (D-SC), Maxine Waters (D-CA) and Charles Rangel, (D-NY), right, speak with supporters outside the U.S. Capitol building June 23, 2016 in Washington, DC. (Allison Shelley/Getty Images)
The political class — the elites — will resist the next age forcefully, with all they have. The disruptions we’ll see over the next 30 years will be catastrophic to some very powerful forces. Governments, banks, corporations, unions and industries with GDPs larger than most nations will crumble. Currencies will become obsolete. And these institutions will hold on until their last dying breath.
The church resisted the Age of Enlightenment because it threatened the status quo. It threatened its power.
What do you think Monsanto will do when prime beef can be grown in a lab and 3D printed? Either they will buy up the beef industry and push for regulation of 3D printers, or they will buy up the 3D printing companies and lobby for regulations on the beef industry.
America makes up 4% of the world’s population, but we consume 45% of the prescription drugs and 80% of the world’s anti-depressants. What will drug manufacturers will do when DNA sequencing and stem cell generation cure all diseases?
What will the oil industry do when Elon Musk masters cold fusion?
What will the utility companies do when he or Apple masters the solar battery?
What will funeral homes and cemeteries do when Kurzweil and Thiel cure death like a disease — when the body is merely a flawed machine that can be disposed of or replaced, having nothing to do with the definition of life?
All of these questions will have to be answered. And many of you will be alive to see it happen.
The most urgent question is this:
Will you be the one helping to set the new design, or just living within the framework of rules somebody else built? Will you be a free man or a slave?
The Baby Boomers and Gen X grew up under the shadow of the nuclear build-up. In the years following the Cuban Missile Crisis, 25% of new homes included bomb shelters.
Illustration of a family building a bomb fallout shelter together, from a U.S. Department of Defense publication, 1961. (Hulton Archive/Getty Images)
Since World War II, we have believed nuclear bombs were the ultimate weapon, the ultimate way to destroy. But social media has proved that isn’t true. A bomb does not destroy a civilization. That’s not what is being used to destroy ours.
The two greatest weapons in the information age — available to governments, corporations and the media — are fear and shame.
Fear is how you blind people, get them to surrender their freedom, hand it over to pay for the safety you promise them. Make people afraid. Tell them who is to blame. In America, that is how you sell a product. That is how you win elections. Fear is how you divide. Fear is how you enslave.
Shame is how you silence the skeptics and those who would speak out in protest. Shame is how you suppress dissent.
It’s time to fight back against the cacophony of the establishment — media, movies, ads from corporations and lobbyists — all trying to make you feel afraid and all trying to make you feel ashamed.
• Ashamed to be American.
• Ashamed to be a white male.
• Ashamed to be gay.
• Ashamed to drive a used car.
• Ashamed to have ancestors who might have owned slaves.
• Ashamed to be bald, fat, black, wealthy, poor, to eat meat, to not shop at Whole Foods, or to like cats more than dogs.
What a load of crap. Don’t let anybody control you or your thinking. That way of life, that type of politics and moral dictatorship needs to be left in the ash heap.
Let’s focus on what’s right with each other — the principles and hopes we all have in common. The next two generations can just let all of that go. Martin Luther King, Jr. was right: Love wins.
US civil rights leader Martin Luther King, Jr., waves to supporters from the steps of the Lincoln Memorial 28 August, 1963, on The Mall in Washington, DC (AFP/Getty Images)
Let the legacy of your generation be to realize the mistakes of the ones that came before.
The partisan politics, the fear-driven marketing from special interest groups who send out scare-mail and shame you into another donation — their empire is dying. Dying empires thrash about.
• They will start wars.
• They will pass new draconian laws.
• They will ban public gatherings.
• They will kill each other’s leaders.
• They will pass new taxes to curb behaviors they don’t like.
• They will spend money they don’t have, point at their apparent prosperity and say, “See, we’re great!” and try to convince themselves they’re still the greatest nation on earth.
Only they aren’t enjoying their own prosperity, they are enjoying yours. They’ve stolen it from you as surely as if they held a gun to your head.
• More monuments
• More people with health care
• More college graduates
• More police
• More hospitals
All good things, right?
• More hubris
• More bailouts
• More safety regulations
• More debt
• More guns in the hands of bureaucrats
• More power over you
It wasn’t their greatness, it was yours. Their empire is built on $200 trillion of debt. Numbers that have become so large they are meaningless. But they don’t have to pay it. The politicians who left us that tab will be dead and gone when the bill comes due.
No big deal, right?
I’m not asking too much, am I? Let’s see, you just need to throw off the shackles of fear and shame, help the country reboot into America 3.0, pay off $200 trillion in debt and learn to live and let live.
The National Debt Clock is seen on the corner of Sixth Avenue and West 44th Street on August 1, 2011 in New York City. (Andrew Burton/Getty Images)
So, what enables you to do those things?
When you figure it out, that is what goes into the letter to your grandkids. Not what you fear, but what compels you to stand and keeps you standing through the storms of life.
That is what I wanted to hear from my grandparents. That would have helped me navigate my life. The answers that help you navigate your life will never be found with someone who says, “I’ll fix the transgender bathroom problem.” They are too narrow-minded. They don’t get it. They don’t see the future.
I have grandkids. Whether I like it or not, I’ll be leaving them a legacy, a heritage, a code of ethics and honor, a name to live up to. I am leaving them a world to inhabit. As technology advances forward at this rapid pace, they might have to inhabit it for a long time.
The legacy we leave isn’t just physical. It’s moral. If we choose it, if we let it, this will be the next Golden Age for man, and for freedom.
Featured Image: The Glenn Beck Program